Health care is constantly changing and it might feel overwhelming to try and keep up with all of it. It is like the constant stream of news that continues to air, how do you sift through all that information? If you tried to sift through all the news articles about health care trends you would end up spending countless hours to try to get a good understanding of what was going on. That is way too time consuming especially for an undergraduate student. Instead, you need to come up with a method or ritual that could help you make your way through all that information.

First, decide what sort of information you are searching for. Health care is a pretty big topic so rather than trying to get through everything it would make more sense to try and focus on a sub topic. Some examples include: health care and new laws, health care specifically in the US, health care reform, etc.

Second, use the topic that you decided on to narrow your search. Use this topic as a keyword in a news magazine, online news source, or search engine to display the most commonly read topics about this topic. Another easy way to find articles to read is to pick up a free newspaper – they actually have free newspapers all the time. There is a health/medicine section in almost every newspaper – maybe not the school paper- but you can flip to that section and the articles that have the most space dedicated to them on the page are usually the more active issues. Sometimes these “featured” articles though are not necessarily informational and are more political.

Third, how do you assess if the information you are reading is accurate and not biased. Almost each article that you read will have some internal biases that are either purposeful or unintentional. It is very difficult to know whether someone is writing an article with certain biases unless you know the person writing the article. The best way to figure this out is to read articles with a suspicion that the person writing it was completely biased. When you do this, you are actively reading an article rather than passively which keeps you open to catching possible biases in an article. When you read aggressively you are more prone to question information you may read.

Fourth, how do you even know what to look for in terms of biases? Before you can jump into reading an article actively with your “bias” glasses, you need to know enough information about a topic to have formulated a basic opinion. Once I find an article that I want to read, I like to do a quick search of the main topic that will be presented in the topic. For example, if there is a new law that was recently passed on health care reform I will type into google the name of the law and read about it for a couple of minutes so that I have some background information. This helps to bring into focus information that I will be encountering later. When you have the background information it is much easier to comprehend the more complicated information that you may encounter in a news article.

A good example of this is if you go to lecture without knowing any of the background information. Depending on which Professor and which class it is, it may be okay if you did not prepare for your lecture however some of your more difficult courses you may be completely lost throughout the whole lecture. For your harder classes, you know that you should at least review a little bit of information prior to going to class otherwise going to class will be a waste of time. This is very similar to when you just jump into an article and depending on the author of the article, it may be easy to read and understand however more often than not, these articles have topics on health care reform that we are not well versed in. For this reason, it would be better to have at least a general idea of the topic of the article prior to reading about it and wasting your time getting confused.

Fifth, after you have read the article it would not be a bad idea to discuss what you read with a friend, family member, or professor (that knows about Medicine). The reason I say this is because other people may have a better understanding of what you read and from these people you can learn more than what you read about. Or the people you talk to may have no knowledge of this information and for these people you would need to provide them with a quick summary of what you read about. Providing someone else with a quick summary is one of the hardest things to do since you need to know the information very well to teach it to someone else.

Keeping up with health care trends is not an easy task but gets easier once you do it regularly. If you just read about advances in health care once a year, you will not be able to build a skill set of searching through articles and learning from them. This is something you should try to do maybe on a weekly basis so that you get into the habit of keeping up to date on information in the health world. Just remember though that just because I listed a five-step process does not mean that you should follow the process religiously. You can pick and choose which steps that you like and which work well for you and stick to them.

Identifying and evolving with health care trends is not a passive process unfortunately. It requires upkeep for yourself to remain up to date. In the beginning, it may feel like a pain looking up information prior to reading an article but you will get yourself into a good rhythm and become more efficient during the process. Just grab your phone and read an article while on the subway, when you are using the bathroom, waiting in line for Chipotle, or when you get to class early.